NEW DELHI: Over 6,100 people have died in India due to heat wave in the last nine years (2010-18) with the year 2015 alone recording nearly one-third such deaths. Among states, Andhra Pradesh had recorded the maximum casualties during 2013-15 period.
Analysis of the casualty figures shows that Andhra Pradesh (AP), Telangana (after its formation in June, 2014), Odisha and West Bengal had together reported more than 90% of total deaths due to heat wave in the country during the period.
Sharing the nationwide cumulative figures in Lok Sabha, the minister of earth sciences Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said a latest study had showed that heat waves have increased in many parts of the country with these conditions being experienced generally during the period between March and July.
The minister, however, said the the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in collaboration with state health departments have started a heat action plan in many parts of the country as “an adaptive measure” to forewarn about heat waves and advise on preventive action to be taken — a move which resulted in consistent decline in number of casualties since 2015 despite severity of heat wave occurrences.
Figures, shared in response to a Parliament Question, show that 2,081 people had died due to heat wave in 2015. The number of casualties then declined to 700 in 2016; 375 in 2017 and 20 in 2018.
Before 2015, the country had witnessed deaths of 269 people due to heat wave in 2010; 12 in 2011; 729 in 2012; 1,433 in 2013 and 548 in 2014.
Among states, AP had reported 1,422 deaths (out of total 2,081) in 2015; 100 (out of 557) in 2016 and 236 (out of 375) in 2017. Similarly, Telangana had reported 584 deaths in 2015; 300 in 2016 and 100 in 2017.
Noting that the heat action plan is a comprehensive early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events, Vardhan said, “The plan presents immediate and longer-term actions to increase preparedness, information-sharing and response coordination to reduce the health impacts of extreme heat on vulnerable populations.” In response to a similar Parliament Question, the government had earlier informed the Lok Sabha that though the heat wave occurrence zones over the years were found to be the same, the frequency of ‘severe heat waves’ had increased sharply in the recent years.
Referring to past incidents and result of advance warning system, the government had noted that though the severity of heat waves in 2016 remained more severe than in 2015, the death toll has seen less (557) than that in 2015 (2,081).
India had introduced the system of “location specific heat index forecasts” in 2016 to communicate likely severity of heat waves occurrences to people in usual heat wave zones, covering AP, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.